Question: On a recent episode of Joan of Arcadia, they read a poem for Rocky's funeral. Can you tell me who wrote the poem? Veronica, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Televisionary: Not only can I tell you, Veronica, I can present it here for you.
The poem read in the Jan. 9 episode has been shared and sent around the world with slightly different wording, different titles, and with its lines in varying order to comfort the bereaved after major disasters, terrorist attacks and the deaths of ordinary people. (Four lines have even been lost along the way.) It's been set to music, used on cards and in various needlepoint projects and was even read by John Wayne at Howard Hawks' funeral. Most of the people who've quoted it never knew who the author was.
Over the years, many different people have claimed authorship, even driving researchers working on the Dear Abby column to distraction when they tried to identify the writer. But it was actually written by Mary Elizabeth Frye, who in 1932 scrawled it on a paper bag for a grieving friend whose mother had recently passed away. Frye never published it herself or applied for a copyright; she said she felt it belonged to the world, joking in a CBC radio interview: "Maybe I'm a nut."
Here's the full version of what was read in that episode, which is generally the most common take on it:
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints of snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.